On Wednesday, 13 July 2022, Sri Lanka declared a state of emergency hours after President Gotabaya Rajapaksa fled the country amid widespread protests against his government for mishandling the economy and bringing the country to the verge of collapse. His brother, former finance minister Basil Rajapaksa, has also left the crisis-hit country. Rajapaksa fled the island and reached the nearby Maldives in the early hours of Wednesday. As the acting President, Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has declared a nationwide state of emergency after Rajapaksa and his brother fled. The prime minister’s office has also confirmed that the president had left the country.
Sri Lanka Air force (SLAF) confirmed that the President, First lady, and two bodyguards boarded an Air force flight to the Maldives, the SLAF said “ In accordance with the powers vested in an Executive President in the Constitution of Sri Lanka, at the request of the existing Government, subject to the full approval of the Ministry of Defence, and subject to immigration, customs and all other laws at the Katunayake International Airport, the President along with the First Lady and two security guards departed on an Air Force flight to the Maldives early this morning.” Rajapaksa, who enjoys immunity from prosecution while he is president, fled the country before resigning to avoid the possibility of arrest by the new government. He arrived in the capital of the Maldives, Male, at around 3 am local time, BBC.
Media reports said the Maldives Parliamentary Speaker and former President Mohamed Nasheed received Mr. Gotabaya at the airport, though there is no official word from Male yet.
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Mr. Nasheed has maintained close friendships with all Sri Lankan leaders, across the political structure. In May, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed Mr. Nasheed as the “coordinator” for securing foreign aid to Sri Lanka. The Rajapaksas skipped four flights on Tuesday which were slated to take them outside Sri Lanka as immigration staff expressed their disapproval in letting them through. The Rajapaksas wanted to get through the immigration and customs without standing in the queue with the general public fearing reprisal and officials at the immigration and the Colombo International Airport did not heed to their demands.
The Maldives and Sri Lanka are bound by strong ties and close relations. Sri Lanka has often given refuge to Maldivian leaders in exile. Exactly 10 years ago, the wife and daughters of Mr. Nasheed fled to Colombo amid escalating violence in the Maldives, and now the Sri Lankan prez flees to the Maldives.
India Refutes Rumours of helping Lankan Prez
The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka on Wednesday refuted rumors that India helped outgoing Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa flee Sri Lanka. It also confirmed it provided the Antonov-23 which flew them to Male. The president was unwelcome in Male as air traffic controllers denied permission to land but then Maldives parliament speaker Majlis and former President Mohamed Nasheed intervened to make way for the embattled president
There are speculations that Rajapaksa may leave for another location soon from Male.
New Delhi said, “India will continue to support the people of Sri Lanka as they seek to realize their aspirations for prosperity and progress through democratic means and values, established democratic institutions, and constitutional framework.” The High Commission of India in Sri Lanka categorically denied
“baseless and speculative” media reports that it facilitated the escape of Rajapaksa to the Maldives. Basil, the 71-year-old leader is being widely held responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis which has increased misery on the people.
After news of Rajapaksas escaping surfaced, protests broke out in Colombo as an angry group of protestors took the streets expressing their disappointment towards the help they received while fleeing the nation.